For god’s sake this parenting lark is hard work.
It’s perhaps a bit of a cliché but Lyall and Richard appear to subconsciously take turns to behave like a street urchin for a week while the other behaves like a sparkling angel.
I see the switch in behaviour, a little like Freaky Friday’s body-swap, first thing on a dark Monday morning.
Richard wakes me with a jolly ‘Morning Daddy’, while Lyall whacks our bedroom light on full blast and elbows past him to demand assistance with a missing sock (must remember not to put away washing after half a bottle of Bordeaux on a Sunday evening). I respond with a sigh, rolling out of bed and routing around for Lyall’s missing sock in the growing pile of clean washing in the basket next to the bed while Richard hugs me from behind.
As a father this opposing behaviour is most disorientating; as noted below.
(By the way, guess who has been a little too inspired after reading Helen Fielding’s beautiful Bridget Jones Diary on holiday last week?)
Later Monday morning…
8:15am | Bark order at Lyall who’s licking the mirror by the front door.
8:16am | Pat Richard on the head as he carefully sorts out shoes in shoe rack into size order.
8:17am | Plonk Lyall onto the naughty step as punishment for bashing Richard with a shoe, then usher Richard into naughty corner in kitchen (inadvertantly punishing Richard in response to same shoe being swung around by shoelace into back of my head by Lyall).
8:18am | Check WhatsApp notification on phone – Michelle (Sam’s mum) reminding me that it’s ‘bright coloured clothes’ non-uniform day at school. Tits.
8:19am | Dash upstairs to find Lyall has abandoned naughty step, now in bathroom attempting to discharge half a tube of toothpaste onto toothbrush. Instinctively grab toothpaste tube, accidentally squirting toothpaste into Lyall’s face. Panic for a moment, look around, grab towel, push towel towards Lyall.
8:20am | Lyall cleaned up, now cheerfully brushing teeth. Dash back downstairs to relieve sobbing Richard from naughty corner, quick cuddle, all better.
8:22am | Lyall back downstairs, standing on door mat by front door, looking at me with vacant expression and holding shoelaces up suggestively. I angrily tie shoelaces up. Meanwhile, Richard appears behind me and rubs my back – irritating, but nice sentiment. Feel emotionally confused.
8:25am | Lyall sat in car on drive, Richard looking desparately for left shoe which is missing from organised shoe line-up. Shoe found behind toilet in downstairs loo.
8:26am | Leave for school.
Last Wednesday (same week; Lyall bad/Richard good) I took the boys to the dentist for a checkup. There’s a lot of waiting around at the dentist; high risk for messing about and causing mischief/stress for Daddy. I sat in between the boys in the busy waiting room. Inspired by two well turned-out little boys sitting on the other side of the room quietly reading leaflets (a little older than my two admittedly), I popped over to the reception desk to select a handful of clinical looking leaflets to keep Lyall and Richard busy.
On return to the seats, I noticed that Lyall had slid down the chair so that the back of his head was now where his bottom should be, his body in a kind of horizontal position with his feet right out in front of him on the floor. Richard was attemping to kick Lyall’s legs out from under him. I gave Lyall a stare and whispered “Sit up straight” to which he propped himself back up in painfully slow motion, knowing that I was unable to get angry and hurry him along in such a quiet environment.
I dished out the leaflets; Dental Implants to Lyall and Over 55s Dental Plan to Richard. Both leaflets were immediately returned to me for paper-aeroplane manufacture. Boys were finally sitting quietly.
In the dentist’s office, Lyall and Richard respectively sat quietly with me while the other sat in the dentist’s chair for his checkup. Richard’s discoloured tooth (known effectionately/distastefully by Lyall as Richard’s ‘pirate tooth’) thankfully wasn’t rotten but in fact was the result of trauma. I tried to recall which one of Richard’s hundreds of slips and falls could have resulted in a brown tooth, but was interupted by Lyall who’d wriggled himself free from my lap and was now dancing around in circles with his arms out like Maria von Trapp repeating ‘Moves like Jagger, got the moves like Jagger, got the moves like Jagger’ dangerously close to the dentist’s tray of instruments.
I seized him around his waist and lifted him back onto my lap with a calming ‘Shhhhh’. I caught the dental nurse’s glance as she giggled quietly and rolled my eyes.
Naturally, Richard on the other hand sat on my lap patiently like a lovely little cherub while Lyall had his turn in the dentist’s chair; Lyall having lost seven teeth in the last three months had more of a gum than a tooth inspection; everything was fine. Phew.
During my checkup, Lyall wouldn’t sit down but instead chose to stand with his back against the wall and his hands behind his back (the standard formal waiting position for check-outs, doctors, hairdressers, dentists, queues, post-offices – prevents rogue touching of non-belongings). I felt fairly calm until about a minute into my check-up, Lyall popped up to the right of me, next to my head. He’d squeezed in between the dentist’s chair and his worktop and was now looking curiously at the expensive instruments on the sideboard. His hands were reaching up, about to touch/break something expensive. Being unable to talk, I grunted to get Lyall’s attention and directed him back towards the wall with an angry eye movement.
On leaving the surgery and heading back towards the car park, I asked “What happened to sitting quietly, boys?” to which Lyall replied, “We did, Daddy”.